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Peters wary of freer trade

Taranaki Daily News, New Plymouth

Peters wary of freer trade

By Richard Woodd

20 March 2008

Winston Peters wants some assurances on how a free trade agreement with China will benefit this country before he is prepared to support the deal to be signed next month by Prime Minister Helen Clark.

"When one NZ worker can be replaced by 18 from China, it is time for us to be cautious about what it means to indulge in free trade with low-wage economies," the New Zealand First party leader told an audience of 80 at Stratford Grey Power yesterday.

"Show me the advantages to New Zealand from our FTAs with Singapore and Thailand. Show me how the balance of trade has gone up in our favour. I’ll put my political reputation on it: the government can’t show the advantage because it doesn’t exist."

Mr Peters said China already had an effective FTA with New Zealand "because virtually all of their products are allowed in free of tariffs. What do we have left to trade with?

"Based on ... the trade deals with the low-wage economies of Singapore and Thailand, one has to doubt the wisdom of the agreement with China.

"We would do much better to tax our own exporters less than 20%. Pacific trade is 9:1 in our favour; China will be a lot of hard work."

Mr Peters said the extraordinarily inflated value of the New Zealand dollar was a financial disgrace at a time of record high commodity prices and should be lowered to US60c to suit our farming and other export industries.

"This and our very high interest rates demonstrate how our two major political parties have been captured by the big-city paper shufflers and foreign-owned beneficiaries. They want to keep inflation down no matter what the cost."

He said the coming election campaign should be about these economic issues, but New Zealanders were either paralysed or refusing to complain to their politicians.

Mr Peters said selling 40% of Auckland international airport to the Canadian pension plan would be a mistake, because the new owner would only need to influence a small percentage of other shareholders to gain an effective majority in a vote. He was opposed to selling a prime asset to foreign interests who wanted the airport for its long-term profit potential.